We all have a favourite vacation destination: a perfect ski slope, an idyllic white sand beach, a pristine mountain getaway… Sometimes they’re far away or even so remote as to be considered exotic, and yet these are the places we’ll save up money for and plan ahead for years just to experience. But ask yourself this question: if you could enjoy the same ski slope, sandy beach, or mountain getaway by driving just a few hours to an artificial attraction, would you do that instead?
If you’re like most avid travellers or world tourism enthusiasts, your immediate answer is probably an emphatic no! Indeed, the idea of enjoying a fake vacation down the road as opposed to getting out and experiencing the real thing seems almost blasphemous for those who like to see the world, something akin to playing a football video game instead of taking the opportunity to see Chelsea and Man Utd. play live in London. But then again, most of don’t yet fully understand what the concept of fake vacation—or fakecation (thanks, Buzzfeed!)—really implies.
And no, it’s not, as that Buzzfeed article implies, the art of selfie photography designed to make you look like you’re somewhere you aren’t. Rather, fakecationing is about enjoying exotic destinations that have been artificially constructed a little closer to home, or at least in a more affordable manner.
The idea actually isn’t new at all, as it’s basically what major entertainment resorts have sought to do for decades. Consider some of the iconic resorts that define the U.S. city of Las Vegas—there’s one designed in the image of New York City, and another modeled after Paris. There are resorts with massive wave pools designed to imitate the beach, and others with “ice bars” to make you feel like you’ve journeyed to the arctic. Really, it’s an old concept, but it’s one that’s being explored in big, bold new ways across the globe.
Medium explored the phenomenon through an incredible glimpse of the work of Reiner Riedler, an Austrian photographer who’s taken up an interest in depicting some of the more spectacular fakecation destinations around the world.
Riedler has photographed “pop-up beaches” in indoor locations in Germany, flooded with tourists laying out in beach chairs at the edge of artificial oceans. He’s captured collections of imitation American monuments in China, and historical homages like a Biblical “Holy Land experience” in Orlando. There’s even a fully functional indoor ski resort that Riedler photographed in Dubai (see photo).
Could something like this actually become the new normal though? Well, that’s probably impossible to say, but it’s certainly a concept that the public is starting to accept pretty willingly.
All of these are very real vacation destinations where people can often get a taste of their ideal travel spots without actually having to spend hours upon hours on a flight.
In an amusing commentary on the subject highlighted by The Telegraph earlier this year, the online casino company behind Gala Casino actually fooled much of its fan base by essentially faking a fakecation destination. That is to say, the online gaming company put forth a fake press release (in accordance with April Fools’ Day tradition) about an ice casino it was building in Sweden, as a means of simulating arctic conditions and igloo constructions for visitor amusement. Similarly, the Telegraph also highlighted mocking concepts like a zero gravity chamber experience atop the London Eye, or a new line of high-speed trains equipped with indoor climbing gyms.
Those concepts are all fake, but are they really so hard to believe given the extent of imagination and artificial design laid forth by Reiner Riedler’s photography? The April Fools’ destinations may have been meant to mock fakecation locations, but it’s not a coincidence that they all came about in 2015. This is a trend that appears to be genuinely gaining steam. While it will of course never supplant true vacations, it may just become a viable alternative for those who care more about the raw experience than the actual journey or destination.